"Well, Mrs. Phipps, I cannot see that you have any particular cause for uneasiness, nor do I understand why I, whose time is of some value, should interfere in the matter. I really have other things to engage me." So spoke Sherlock Holmes and turned back to the great scrapbook in which he was arranging and indexing some of his latest paper doll creations.
But the landlady had the pertinacity and also the years of bureaucratic experience. She held her ground firmly.
"It is a matter of vital national interest and I can make your life a living hell if you don't investigate at once."
"Ah, yes–a simple matter." Holmes threw down the scrapbook and leapt to his feet. "Well, then is it spies stealing state secrets? Or a murder mystery?"
"No, it is foul racist who must be investigated at once and you are just the man to look into it."
Holmes was accessible upon the side of flattery, and also, to do him justice, upon the side bureaucratic strong arm tactics. The two forces made him lay down his gum-brush with a sigh of resignation and reach for a handy fifth of rutgut bourbon.
"Well, well, Mrs. Phipps, let us hear about it, then. Tell me about this foul racist."
"Well, he spat at a black boy, I immediately had him cudgeled to the ground and thrown into the school basement."
Holmes leaned forward and laid his long, thin fingers upon the nearest flagon of cheap rum. He grimaced and asked, "And who is this racist then?"
"If I take it up I must understand every detail," said he. "Take time to consider. The smallest point may be the most essential."
"Well, he's a student at my school. He and the other four-year olds were playing a game of chase and – why Mr. Holmes, whatever is the matter?"
Holmes picked his jaw up from where it had fallen amongst the ruins of his paper doll collection. He sat down heavily in his chair and just stared at Mrs. Phipps.
"Why yes, Mr. Holmes, I suspected it at once when he spat at the 10-year old black boy."
Holmes reached down and picked up his scrapbook, grasped his gum brush and started to glue a particularly fancy paper doll into the book.
Mrs. Phipps, her voice rising almost to a shriek, demanded, "Aren't you going to investigate?"
Holmes glanced up and said, calmly, "No, Mrs. Phipps. I think I shall let you finish the project all by yourself. You've only got a short distance to go. Then you'll finally be a complete ass."
I knocked back a quick quart of scotch while Mrs. Phipps stormed from the room. I looked inquiringly at Holmes.
"And they wonder why we've taken to drink and paper dolls," he muttered.
I nodded and went back to cutting out a particularly tricky Betty Boop doll.